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Ask HN: Should we abandon our product?
8 points by dzenos 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments
Hi HN,

We've spent the last few months developing a product, but now we've hit a wall and we're thinking about abandoning it. We'd appreciate your brutally honest feedback about what we should do and if our solution makes any sense at all.

For context, here is our YC startup school presentation, and our landing page:

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxpVkonSHJQ

- https://tuiqo.com

Basically, we made an editor that tries to solve document versioning issues. While trying to find product market fit, we've separately tested it with different target groups, like writers, journalists, lawyers, academics and digital content creators. We kept getting great feedback from these groups, but had a hard time converting any actual users. We had to stop developing because while trying to sell it, everyone kept requesting more and more different features, and it seemed no matter what we would add, still no one was ready to pay for it.

Do you think there is any scenario where someone would find this useful enough to actually use it or pay money for it? Or did we just build something that seems interesting to a lot of people but no one is really willing to use it?

Your website is beautiful, name could be better because I'm not sure how to pronounce it so hard to tell friends. Unfortunately idea/product itself isn't something I can give much feedback on, I'm mostly a developer so I didn't realize this was a problem people had, I guess I can kind of understand some professions (lawyers, creatives) could really use this though but it's a tough sell getting people to change their ways unless it dramatically makes things better for them. It's hard enough making tech people do it in my experience.

we made an editor that tries to solve document versioning issues

Document versioning is orthogonal to text editors and text editors are a mostly solved problem for most people anyway. Solving people's document versioning issues means meeting them where they are and providing additional capabilities not sending them back to ground zero. To put it another way, if a customer adopts your solution and your company goes out of business, the customer should be no worse off than if they had not adopted your solution.

The minimum viable product is not a text editor because text editors are complicated -- never mind Vim or Word or Emacs, the current state of even Notepad and Nano reflect many years of development.

The great news is that you have people who will talk to you. Ask them what their current versioning problems are. Become an expert in actual document versioning problems before deciding on a solution. Solve one organization's document versioning problems first. Go deep before going broad.

Good luck.

"We kept getting great feedback from these groups"

If someone says "they love it" and "it looks awesome", or "that's such a great feature", that's just them being nice. Did they actually ask you for an account to use? Did they ask when it would go live so they could pay you?

If not perhaps there's no market. For whom isn't basic collaboration (aka Google docs) enough?

The only group I could reasonably see paying for this are the lawyers, and I don't see it happening (they're not know for being cutting-edge in tech adoption). But I've been wrong before :)

Yes I would abandon it.

P.S.: the startup school link doesn't work for me, looks like requires a login.

  “Did they actually ask you for an account to use? Did they ask when it would go live so they could pay you?”
No, they haven’t. They all missed some features before they’d be willing to commit. We realise most of these people were probably just trying to be nice :)

  “The only group I could reasonably see paying for this are the lawyers, and I don’t see it happening
  (they’re not know for being cutting-edge in tech adoption). But I’ve been wrong before :)”
Exactly, you’re not wrong, we’ve reached the same conclusion. Lawyers really suffer from this problem and see us as a potentially great solution but as one of them put it: “It took us 10 years to learn MS Word, we are not changing to something new.”

Thanks for the honest feedback!

Updated startup school link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxpVkonSHJQ

No, the problem is your marketing. Time to pivot, your idea is not unique what you have built is the basics of a document management system. This problem has been solved by virtually every EMR, and other companies with products such as OnBase. The good news is that you are not alone, and there are other succesful/profitable businesses in this market space.

Remember you do not have to be Unique or the best in the market; you just have to be better than some.

Marketing/sales are definitely one of our biggest issues. We understand that there are many enterprise document management systems, and that is exactly why we went to those markets where companies/users cannot afford those expensive EMS, or they are simply too complex for their needs. We want to pivot, and that is exactly what this post is all about. Thank you.

I would say find a niche market, build a tailored work flow for that market. For example, an random idea, the education sector, market your product to English teachers to allow for their students to manage there homework. Basically find any niche market where the businesses are using share-point, or network shares to manage documents. I believe your bread and butter will be with small shops that can afford a monthly subscription, but can't afford a large product like OnBase. Also don't be afraid to sell appliances that host your software, not everything has to be in the cloud.

Consider reaching out to Kan and team at AtriumLTS. Not sure what their company is all about but before walking away you can try and get it into the hands of someone who might be able to integrate it into their company.

Actually, we did through our YC SS network. We talked to Kan's co-founder who confirmed that lawyers do have this problem, but kind of they themselves don't know how to approach it. The reason: It's hard to make them switch and use new technology.

I think you are right that you should stop development until you get a few customers for the current version -- otherwise you may spend time not focusing on the selling aspect! The web-site tells what the product does like it would be obvious to users, but you probably need to present a specific use-case/example/workflow where it will help an end-user. And this use-case should target the specific type of customer you want. Also, probably target a segment where people will try new stuff (i.e where they don't necessarily love Microsoft Word, etc) -- it seems like a interesting product for startups to write up product manuals maybe? Narrow your product's/service's focus market....

Thank you for the feedback!

1.- name is ugly

2.- you don't have a target market

3.- while the Lawyers seem like a great target market, they like to use Word.

4.- there are Word products already in the market, so it's a Proven niche.

5.- I would drop the name and go for a Product that works inside Word with minimal fuss.

6.- Do you have the time and energy?

7.- why did you make this product?

Landing page looks really nice but I couldn't see any pricing.

I couldn't see any reason that this wouldn't sell.

There is no pricing page because we haven't identified the market yet (as we wrote above). Thanks.

It looks like a wiki to me. Packed with some "interesting" features (blocks/tabs). Don't see the connection with the headline "document versioning".

If this supported docx format, you could sell it to law firms

You think so? We've talked to a few law firms, and it seems it's a really hard market to crack. Docx support was our next feature before we decided to halt new feature development.

Maybe sell it as a plugin for MS Word? Querystorm[1] (ThingieQuery, previously), a plugin that allows SQL queries on Excel spreadsheets, seems to be doing pretty well.

[1]: http://www.querystorm.com/

A plugin could be an interesting option, thanks.

You might want to narrow the audience if you keep getting feature requests. Make the product awesome for one of those groups you talked to and then grow from there.

But at what point does it become too many features? You can't just keep developing for free can you? I assume they are running out of funds...

That’s basically what we’ve been attempting. We tried to target just one user group at a time, but everyone seemed to have their own different vision of what this should be. At this point we don’t feel too confident with spending several more months developing targeted features for someone, only to find out it was all in vain.

the concept looks cool!

but I can't think of too many cases where we need multiple versions of a same document.

Your presentation needs improvement.

You mean the landing page: how we pitch the product? Or video presentation?

The video presentation is particularly bad.

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